Non-ionizing Radiation

Written by Rebecca Lord
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Non-iodizing radiation is a form of radiation that is generally considered safe. Unlike its harmful counterpart (the iodizing form of radiation), this type of energy has been perceived as relatively innocuous in small doses. Thus, you can find it in a host of common household products and appliances, from microwave ovens and cell phones to certain light fixtures and radios.

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Iodizing radiation, like that found in x-rays and gamma rays, is harmful in part because of its ability to create electrical charge. In turn, this charge can destabilize tissues and organisms and produce lasting change in them. Non-iodizing radiation does not have these properties, and it functions mainly by heating things.

However, this heat can be a source of serious damage if not monitored carefully. Heat can damage human tissue and it can spark its own cascade of adverse events. This is why many low frequency, non-iodizing devices need to pass strict screening procedures before they can be distributed to the public. It is also why policy makers are arguing for stricter guidelines for things like cell phones, pagers, and computers.

Several classes of low-frequency radiation are grouped under the "non-iodizing" classification. These include radio waves, UV, infrared, and microwaves. Because the category encompasses many types of radiation, it is likely that there is a good deal of variability in how humans respond to exposure to non-iodizing forms. Research is underway to address this issue, and the hope is that future findings will elucidate mechanisms of human risk and resilience.

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